MHC Collection Development Policy

I. Introduction / History

II. Mission

III. Clientele

IV. Collection

V. Selection Criteria

VI. Gifts and Donations

VII. Collection Use

VIII. Future CollectionPlans/Challenges


I. Introduction/History

The Medical Heritage Center opened May 1, 1997 shortly after the library moved back to its newly renovated building in October 1996. The Center began through a generous seed grant of $300,000 from the Academy of Medicine of Columbus and Franklin County Foundation (now the Columbus Medical Association Foundation). OSU University Hospitals contributed $250,000 to complete the physical layout of the floor. In 1998 the Columbus Medical Association awarded the Center a grant for $50,000 to complete the furnishings of the floor.

The Center is located on the fifth floor of the Prior Hall. The collection consists of rare books, archives/manuscripts, artwork, textiles and medical artifacts.

Sarah J. Coleman orchestrated the first special book and journal collection on November 15, 1913 by donating her late husband’s collection of 538 volumes and $500. In 1922 Marietta Comly, Sarah’s sister, contributed $500. Ms. Comly added another

$1500 in 1933 to create the Nathaniel R. Coleman Endowment of $2500.

The original book collection has expanded to encompass books and journals from Willoughby Medical College (1847-48); Starling Medical College/St. Francis Hospital (1848-1907); Ohio Medical University (1892-1907); Columbus Medical College (1876- 1892); and the College of Homeopathic Medicine (1914-1922). Medical items transferred from the Columbus Public Library (a Columbus Medical Association grant supported collection) in 1959 also added several items to the rare books collection. On permanent loan are materials from the Dr. John Harris Dental Museum Foundation in Bainbridge, Ohio. This is an important collection of dental books and journals. In 1987, the Lionel Topaz Memorial Optometry Library was absorbed into the library collection. Dr. Richard Hall and Dr. Charles Sheard’s materials of rare optometry items were added to the rare collection. Several items also came from the Ohio State Dental Association and the Columbus Dental Society. A collection of materials from the Red Cross Library was given to the Medical Library sometime in the 1950s. Many of the items mentioned were eventually housed in OSU Library’s stack areas.

The medical artifact collection began during the OSU Medical Center’s Centennial Celebration in 1934. The Medical Archives Committee, at that time, collected items from individual donors that included bloodletting instruments, probes, medical bags, bedpans, Civil War surgical sets, etc. Many of these items are still in the collection.

Several unique collections are Dr. George Kahn’s set of rare medical coins donated to the library in 1975. A second set of medical coins was donated in 1990 from an unknown source. A set of 11 moulages (wax figurines) was donated to the library in 1986 by the Department of Dermatology. These models were made from 1876 to1893 in Sonneburg, Germany.

Various manuscript and archival collections have been added to the collection since 1997. Most of the collections are of prominent individuals who worked in the health sciences area or materials collected by an individual about areas within the health sciences. Some of the manuscript collections are from local physicians.


II. Mission

The mission statement:

The Medical Heritage Center preserves, promotes, teaches and celebrates the health care legacy of central Ohio as the essential foundation from which the future of the health sciences is born. (Adopted 2011)

With this in mind, the MHC collection will be developed by:

  • Appraising, collecting, organizing, describing, preserving and making available materials of the central Ohio health sciences community of historical value.
  • Providing facilities for the retention, preservation, servicing, and research use of the collection.
  • Serving as a research center for the study of central Ohio’s health sciences history, and the history of the OSU Medical Center.
  • Promoting the knowledge and understanding of the origins, programs and goals of the community and their development.
  • Working closely with the collections development librarian of the Health Sciences Library. Whereas the collection focus of the Health Sciences Library is on the most current literature, the Medical Heritage Center’s scope is to collect volumes that are an integral part of the historic development of the health sciences in central Ohio and the world as a whole.
  • Cooperating with institutions with similar collection areas such as the OSU Archives and the Dittrick Medical History Center in Cleveland, Ohio.



    Primary clientele includes members of the central Ohio health sciences community, current and former health sciences students, genealogists, health sciences historians, and the patrons of the Health Sciences Library. This would include members of the general public who seek historical health information through all means of communication (e.g. email, letters, phone, and website).


    IV. Collections

    All items in the Medical Heritage Center collections are non-circulating.

    A. Books and Historical Reference Materials

    Approximately 20,000 books and journals are currently housed in LC call number order in a temperature/humidity-controlled environment which is designed to house a total of 26,000 volumes. Almost all subject areas of health sciences are represented. The Medical Heritage Center’s primary collection years range from 1555 to 1975, however, more current rare publications may be considered for addition to the collection. A large majority of the collection’s materials are in English; however, texts of note in Latin, German, and other foreign languages are also represented.

    The Medical Heritage Center also houses a historical reference collection in its reading room. These reference materials are not rare, yet contain information that is of interest to those pursuing historical study. Examples of materials included within this collection include directories, statistical sources, and health sciences history textbooks, encyclopedias, and dictionaries.

    Two vertical file cabinets are also maintained in the reading room. One file cabinet contains biographical information. The collection is arranged by last name comma first name. Referrals to other resources are included in each file when possible. The second file cabinet houses general information about the OSU Medical Center, including building information, artwork, and medical firsts, information about the history of area hospitals, health organizations and historically significant locations are also maintained. The collection is produced based on demand or popularity of a particular subject.

    B. Archives and Manuscripts

    There are over 1,700 linear feet of archival collections. Finding aids are provided in paper and electronic format. The collections are housed in the order they are received, and assigned a number based on their processing year. These collections are located on archival shelving in a temperature/humidity-controlled environment.

    Artwork and architectural drawings are only accepted if space and funding is available to support the care and maintenance of this type of collection. Acceptance is on a case- by-case basis.

    C. Artifacts/Textiles

    There are over 5,000 artifacts which are catalogued using PastPerfect, a collection management software. Items are housed in archival cabinets or shelving. When possible, items are stored in archival storage boxes and bagged in polypropylene bags. Tags are attached to items to indicate item description.

    The Medical Heritage Center is home to a growing collection of textiles representing the history of the health sciences. A particular strength is present in the history of nursing. Donations for the textile collection are accepted on a case-by-case basis.


    VI.Selection Criteria

    The Head Curator and the Collections Curator of the Medical Heritage Center select materials based on needs identified through use of the collection. The Curators use various resources such as book dealer’s catalogs, electronic listings, new publication lists etc. to identify items of local interest for the collections. The Curators seeks input from the Medical Heritage Center Advisory Committee and the Health Sciences Library Collection Development Librarian to maintain the various collections based on the Center’s mission statement.

    A. Transfer

    Health sciences information is transferred from the Health Sciences Library and OSUL collections when such information is identified as rare. We define rare as not often or easily found. While a specific year does not limit items from being added to the Medical Heritage Center, they are usually pre-1980.

    B. Local information

    All local health sciences information is sought and added to the collection in order to be the central depository for health sciences information of the central Ohio area.

    C. Language

    English and European language materials are primarily collected, although we do accept material in other languages, depending on the appropriateness for our collection scope.

    D. Geographical Area

    Emphasis is placed on central Ohio and Ohio health sciences history materials. United States health sciences history of national significance is another priority collection area. Other materials are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

    E.    Continuation/Journal

    A few select Ohio, OSU health center, and local health community journals are maintained in the collection for historical research purposes. Otherwise, journals are not collected.

    F.    Artifact

    Three-dimensional objects are collected for the purpose of education. Our artifact collection is used to demonstrate the advancement of the health sciences via demonstrations, exhibits, and publication purposes. Specimens of any kind are not accepted.

In general, large artifacts are not accepted due to storage limitations. It is also strongly preferred that the artifact donations accepted have a tie to medical practices within central Ohio.

G.    NOT collected

a.    Current and non-rare journals and books that are better suited to the more accessible and circulating general collection of the Health Sciences Library.

b.    Subjects generally excluded because they are collected or available at other locations include veterinary medicine, pharmaceutical, pediatrics, psychology, agricultural sciences, biological sciences, audiology, speech and hearing disorders, human ecology, law, biochemistry, bioengineering, social work, and women studies.

c.     Any materials that require a large amount of storage space not available within the MHC.

d.    Medical specimens or hazardous materials.


VI.  Gifts/Donations

Gifts of books/journals, artifacts, and archives/manuscripts are accepted based on the following criteria:

a.  Generally not duplicated within the OSUL system. Note: Duplicates considered more valuable than the copy already located within the OSUL system will be given special consideration. Examples include: signed copies, first editions, rare books not located outside the OSUL system, and volumes that are part of a larger special book collection.

b.  Fall within the collection’s primary purpose of collecting the health sciences history of central Ohio.

c.  Published before 1980.

d.  Uniqueness.

e.  Completeness of the item.

f.    Condition of the item.

g.  Added value for other holdings.


VII.  Collection Use and Access

All collections are non-circulating and must be used in specified areas of the Medical Heritage Center.

Reproductions or copying of any materials will be provided by the Medical Heritage Center staff for a fee.

Access to the collections is provided through The Ohio State University catalog, OSCAR, and through the MHC website. The website contains databases, archive/manuscript finding aids, and online exhibits.


VIII.  Future collection plans and challenges

Endowments are needed to allow for the purchase of unique pieces that would enhance the general makeup of the various collections and to process valuable archival and manuscript collections.

Space is always a premium. Future additions to any of the collections must be carefully considered before additional items are accepted.

The Medical Heritage Center actively seeks to increase collections from minorities and women.



Revised: November 9, 2018